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07.09.2016 15:45

Nuclear Waste Management Organizations in Finland (Posiva), Sweden (SKB) and Canada (NWMO) Partner on First-of-its-Kind Research on Greenland Ice Sheet was completed

During Five Year Project in Greenland an International Team of Researchers Increased Understanding of Ice Sheet Processes.

Over the last million years, the current regions of Finland, Sweden and Canada have experienced multiple ice ages, with one occurring on average every 100,000 years. That is why it is imperative to understand the conditions at the surface and below an ice sheet when planning for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository.

This research was conducted on western Greenland, close to Kangerlussuaq town. The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest ice sheet in the world nowadays, and is comparable to the ice sheets predicted to extend over both Scandinavia and Canada in the future.

Together with partner organizations SKB (Sweden) and NWMO (Canada), the Posiva Oy has released the positive findings of the Greenland Analogue Project (GAP), a collaborative research project that ran from 2008 to 2013. This project brought together specialists, research scientists and engineers from six countries, and focused on increasing scientific understanding of how an ice sheet interacts with areas both above and below ground. This understanding will be used in safety cases - the comprehensive, detailed studies used to evaluate the safety of deep geological repositories over timeframes of up to 1 million years.

“The results from the GAP provide information on where and how much meltwater is generated, both on the surface of the ice sheet and at the base of the ice sheet where it contacts the rock below, on how water travels from the surface through the ice to the base of the ice sheet, and never-before-seen information on the water pressure at the base of an ice sheet” explained Anne Kontula, research manager and deputy project manager for GAP at Posiva.

“The boreholes and results from modelling studies confirmed that water pressure corresponding to 92% of ice thickness accurately describes the average water pressure under the entire Greenland ice sheet over the year” said Lillemor Claesson Liljedahl, geoscientist and GAP Manager for SKB. “This new information indicates that the conditions under an ice sheet assumed in earlier and in on-going safety assessments were realistic”.

Monique Hobbs
, a geoscientist and Siting Project Coordination Manager at NWMO, echoed excitement at these positive findings saying that "safety is always our top priority. Having a greater understanding of the glacial effects for the final disposal helps us to build up realistic future safety cases.”

Over the five years of the study, researchers made direct and indirect observations about the movement of the ice sheet, meltwater runoff, water pressure due to the weight of the ice sheet, water transfer from the ice sheet to areas below the ice surface, and they gained valuable insight into interactions between meltwater and the underlying groundwater systems. The new information and the increased scientific understanding from the Greenland Analogue Project will inform and strengthen future safety cases for deep geological repositories.

Learn more about GAP final report here:

Learn more about GAP data and processes report here:

Further information
Anne Kontula                  
Research Manager, Posiva Oy            
+358 50 5529779               

Dr. Lillemor Claesson Liljedahl
GAP Manager, Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB
+46 70 2205945

Bradley Hammond                            
NWMO Senior Communications Manager                

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